Final count in Jamaica elections confirms opposition JLP victory

Newly elected Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness
Newly elected Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness AP

A final count of the votes cast in Thursday’s general elections in Jamaica has concluded with the main opposition Jamaica Labor Party unseating the ruling People’s National Party by a narrow margin.

Jamaica Labor Party candidates won 32 of the 63 constituencies, while the People’s National Party won 31, the Electoral Office of Jamaica said in a statement. It is expected to communicate the final election results to Governor-General Patrick Allen.

Jamaica Labor Party leader Andrew Holness, meanwhile, is expected to be sworn in as prime minister by the end of the week. As the country’s top lawmaker, Holness must take on a number of daunting issues, from high debt to rising crime and deep unemployment. He has pledged to create jobs and economic growth while improving education and healthcare.

Some political observers and pollsters, however, fear that the one-seat margin could make it difficult for the party to usher in some of its reforms and that, as a result, the country’s 1.8 million voters could soon find themselves back at the polls.

“It usually takes three months in the Caribbean for the people in an incoming government just to figure out where the restrooms are,” pollster Bill Johnson said. “You are not going to be able to do anything, and you are going to have to call an election.”

The Jamaica Labor Party, however, is hoping to increase its one-seat margin by picking up an additional seat.

Elections officials have been summoned to a magisterial recount Wednesday at the Sutton Street Court for the constituency of St. Mary South Eastern. Jamaica Labor Party candidate Norman Dunn had initially been declared the winner of the seat but lost it in the recount by nine votes after 74 votes were rejected. The seat is now held by the People’s National Party’s Winston Green.

On Monday, reservist soldiers were called to reinforce security at electoral offices as tensions mounted during the recount.